On the First Day of Christmas…Vegan Kale, Toasted Hazelnut and Orange Pesto Topped with Savory Dried Cherry and Walnut Chutney and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Merry Christmas a day early everyone! 

This recipe is a three-fer and may require a quick nip into the grocery store, so I wanted you to have a time to procure the ingredients before Christmas arrives because this little nosh packs big flavor and is exactly how my family prefers to eat on Christmas Day.  Or you might even want to serve it tonight for Christmas Eve with your favorite beverage or imbibement.

Back in the day, my family loved a big feast.  Now we nosh.  But, regardless, this tri-level treat will be lovely alongside whatever else you serve.

My special Toasted Pumpkin Seeds don’t absolutely have to go on top, but I love nuts and seeds, so if a (wal)nut plus a (hazel) nut is good, a nut plus a seed is even better.  Therefore, you can just put out a bowl of the seeds for nibbling, then stand back and watch them disappear.

Along those lines, any one of the three parts of this stacked appetizer has a multitude of uses, so let your imagination and the rest of your menu be your guide.

May you have exactly the kind of holiday you need!

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Vegan Szechuan String Beans with Chinese Black Bean Sauce and Cashews

DSCN2025Yield: 2 servings (easily doubles)

This quick, vibrant colored and flavored dish becomes a meal with the addition of tofu or tempeh cubes added during the last two to three minutes of cooking.

It’s my homemade version of one of my favorite dishes in Chinese restaurants.  My secret ingredient?  Chinese Black Bean Sauce!

1/2 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed, lightly salted, and grilled over medium high in a grill pan for about 15 minute, turning periodically, or until lightly charred all over and very tender

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

3 medium garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup soy sauce (I use a “lite” variety for less sodium)

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sake (or mirin)

2 tablespoons Chinese Black Bean Sauce (available on international aisle of most grocery stores)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup lightly roasted and salted cashews (or halves and pieces) + a few more for garnish

While green beans are grilling, heat oil in a cast iron skillet (or wok) over medium-high.  Add ginger, and stir fry for about 1 medium, stirring continually, just to soften and turn slightly more golden.  Lower heat if cooking to fast.  Add garlic, and stir fry for 30 seconds, still stirring continually.  Add remaining ingredients except green beans and cashews and cook, stirring continually until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add green beans and cook another 2 to 3 minutes or until beans are well coated and have absorbed some of the sauce.  Avoid over-cooking or the sauce will become too syrupy and tar-like.  During the last minute, stir in 1/4 cup cashews.  Transfer to a platter or a shallow bowl and serve with additional cashews for garnish.  This dish is fun and quite easy to enjoy with chopsticks.

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Vegan Smoked Almond and Spinach Spread (or Pesto)–Great Made with Farm Stand Swiss Chard and Kale Too!

Vegan Spinach and Smoked Almond Spread

Yesterday, at the farm stand, gazing lovingly at the fresh greens grown right on the property, I suddenly remembered that I had never posted this recipe. I made it with spinach, but it would be just as good with Swiss Chard or kale.

Fondly dubbed by one guest as “the green thing” at my friend, Jo Grice Barrows’, potluck appetizer birthday party, this dip was a hit!  And it was by NO means a vegan crowd!

I came home from school on a Friday after a busy week near the end of the academic year, the day of the party, and it started pouring.  I thought to myself, “I REALLY don’t want to get out; I wonder if we have ANYTHING on hand from which I could make an appetizer?”

A scan of the pantry and fridge yielded smoked almonds and fresh baby spinach.  Voila!  Vegan Smoked Almond and Spinach Spread was born.  And its consistency makes it also perfect for a pesto.

This crowd-pleasing appetizer could not go together more more easily or more quickly.  I whipped it up and still had time to walk both dogs their typical mile each once the rain stopped.  When I told my husband I created the spread from what we had in the house, he said with mock incredulity, “You made it out of dog food and Pill Pockets?”  Funny guy.

You will love this spread even if you have LOTS more ingredients on hand.

2 cups smoked almonds

4 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

2 tablespoons water

2 large cloves garlic, halved

2 teaspoons fresh fresh lime  juice (lemon is tasty too)

1 teaspoon Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon natural sugar

Optional pinch sea salt

Accompaniments: crackers, toasts, bagel chips, fresh vegetable “dippers,” etc.

Place smoked almonds  in a food processor, and pulse until nuts are finely chopped.  Add spinach, and pulse a few more times until spinach is finely chopped and mixture just begins to hold together like a paste.  Add remaining ingredients and continue pulsing until all ingredients are incorporated and mixture reaches a thick, slightly textured, spreadable consistency.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Refrigerate, covered, until serving time.  Serve in a bowl surrounded by the accompaniments of your choice.  I tucked a little yellow parasol on the side since the weather was warm, but you can garnish however you please.

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Vegan Indian Cashew Swiss Chard, Kale or Spinach–A Rich Luscious Feast of a Dish

Indian Cashew SpinachYield: 4 to 6 servings

[If you want to skip the back story, simply click HERE for the recipe on One Green Planet.]

Somehow, my planning hadn’t been very good, as we were about to leave town for five days and I had two bunches of hardy Red Russian Kale and 1 of beautiful rainbow Swiss Chard in our fridge.

Knowing it wouldn’t keep, I thought about making a pesto to freeze, but lately I have been Jonesin’ for Indian food big-time.  So, I decided that if I made a very thick  saag without anything that doesn’t freeze perfectly, like coconut milk, I could pop it in the freezer and enjoy when we returned home.

Not only did it freeze beautifully, but it tasted wonderful before and after freezing with a texture to match!

This amount of greens and onions sounds like a mountain, but it only makes 4 to 6 servings because I chop the greens so finely and it all cooks down significantly.

I served this Indian Cashew Spinach over grilled tempeh, but it would be good over cooked Basmati rice or with just about anything, including a spoon!

For the recipe, visit my pals at One Green Planet by clicking HERE.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: OGP has recently gone through a website redesign, are aware that advertisements sometimes prevent folks from accessing recipes and are working to remedy the situation.  PLEASE, if you experience this, let me know via comment or email and I will send you the recipe directly as well as let them know.  The last thing I want is to put this much effort into recipes only to find out that interested cooks can’t access them.  Thanks so much!)

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Vegan Kale Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic Marinated Figs and Dates Topped with Smoked Almonds

Yield: 8 servings

This beautiful and healthful salad was inspired by one that my close friend, Yvette Hetrick, makes with fresh figs caramelized in orange balsamic.  Ever since she shared the idea for her dish with me, I had wanted to make a version for Thanksgiving.

When Yvette and her husband, Randy, lived in VA Beach (they live in Sausalito now), we used to start co-planning in earnest for our respective feasts as soon as the November culinary magazines hit the stands.  And afterwards, we would pool our leftovers for a potluck dinner following a long beach-state park hike with all of our dogs in tow.  She and I both miss that tradition so much.

Undeterred by the lack of fresh figs and orange balsamic in VA Beach, I plunged ahead using two kinds of dried figs, adding some dates for good measure, and substituting pomegranate balsamic vinegar which was readily available at our local Kroger and sounded very fitting for the holiday.

After marinating the figs and dates all day, I turned over their caramelization to our nephew, Curt Lindelow, a partner and manager of a Bonefish Grill in South Carolina, who knows his way around a kitchen.  He did a beautiful job unsupervised by me and even recommended additional dressing, which was on point.  The following recipe reflects our combined efforts.

8 dried Kalamata figs, stems snipped, and the figs sliced into 3 pieces each

8 Mission figs, stems snipped, and sliced in half lengthwise

8 dates, pitted, and sliced in half lengthwise

6 tablespoons pomegranate balsamic vinegar

6 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

4-2 inch sprigs of fresh rosemary

2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced lengthwise

1/2 teaspoon yellow or Dijon mustard

1/3 cup smoked almonds plus a few more for garnish

8 cups shredded fresh kale (I fold the leaves lengthwise, cut out the stems with kitchen shears, and pulse the kale in a couple of batches in a food processor fitted with a metal blade)

Several hours or the day before you plan to serve the salad, place figs and dates in a shallow dish (I use a ceramic 5 x 9-inch loaf pan).  Whisk together the vinegar and oil and pour it over the fruit.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and then add rosemary and garlic.  Stir to combine.  Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate at room temperature.

Just before serving time, heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high.  Add the fruit and all of the marinade and cook down, slightly caramelizing, for about 7 minutes. Whisk in the mustard.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if desired.  Place the shredded kale in a serving bowl and pour the contents of the skillet directly over the kale.  Toss to evenly distribute the fruit and dressing.  Add smoked almonds, toss lightly again, and serve the salad immediately garnished with a few more smoked almonds if desired.

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Vegan Smokey Pumpkin Grits with Maple-Roasted Pepitas

Yield: 4 servings

This golden and delicious dish personifies fall.  Whether you serve it for breakfast or brunch, as tapas, or as a side dish, it is sure to satisfy as a warm and comforting ode to autumn.

When I was growing up, my family probably ate cheese grits for breakfast on more Sundays than not.  When I became vegan, I learned that cheesy grits need not be a faint and distant childhood memory, thanks to nutritional yeast.

For this recipe, I make the grits even more creamy and golden, with just a hint of smoke and savory sweetness, by incorporating coconut creamer, smoked paprika, vegan butter, and pureed pumpkin.  The creaminess of the grits is perfectly set off by crunchy pepitas lightly toasted with more nutritional yeast, salt, and just a hint of maple syrup.

For some recipes, the garnish is nice, though not necessary.  But for this one–though I would still make the dish even if I didn’t have fresh sage growing in the garden–I feel that tiny, tender and very young sage leaves add the perfect finishing touch to balance and accent all of the other flavor notes.

Find the simple and simply addicting recipe HERE at One Green Planet!


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One Green Planet Published My Vegan Snickers-Inspired Chocolate, Caramel and Peanut Butter Pie–Outrageously Delish!

This decadent pie takes “layers of flavor” to a whole new level, proving that 1 + 1 = 10!  Six, actually, but who’s counting?!

Wait until you try my Cream of Coconut-Peanut Caramel Layer!  Try not to eat it all like candy before assembling the pie. 🙂

Find the surprisingly simple recipe and back-story HERE at One Green Planet!

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Cajun Red Bean Quesadillas with Remoulade Sauce and Praline Pecans

[Photo Note:  Yea!  As promised I purchased a new camera yesterday, and  I’m enjoying familiarizing myself with my brand new Nikon CoolPix S6200.  At right  is the first photo I took with it…what do you think?  I love the white balance feature for starters.  So crisp and clean…not blue or yellow.]

I may have mentioned that I was weened on the New Orleans French Quarter.  My parents honeymooned in NOLA, as did my husband and me.  In between, my folks took my sister and me as often as possible for long weekends when we were growing up.  In more recent years, we have enjoyed spending several days there just before Christmas, one of the most temperate times of year in the Quarter.  Food has always been one of the biggest draws.

Last week I was with my parents at Ochsner’s Hospital for some surgery my father needed.  The hospital is in Metairie, a few minutes from the Quarter, so I didn’t make it there.  But the hospital overlooks the Mississippi River where I walked on the bike/jogging path along the levy.  Since most of my meals at the hospital consisted of hummus, salads, and/or Boca burgers, I came home craving a taste of one of my favorite places on earth.  In response, I created this dish.

This recipe combines my love of Cajun/Creole cuisine with that of my native Texas in the form of a crunchy quesadilla.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Remoulade Sauce:

1/4 cup vegan mayo

2 teaspoons catchup

1 teaspoon Dijon or just plain yellow mustard

1-2 tablespoons roughly chopped drained capers (I love capers, but they can quickly overwhelm; so make sauce ahead with just 1 tablespoon, taste when you’re ready to serve, and add another tablespoon if desired)

In a small bowl or cup, completely combine all ingredients, cover, and chill until ready to serve.


Praline Pecans:

1 tablespoon vegan butter

1 cup pecan pieces

1/2 teaspoon ground paprika or to taste

Sea salt to taste

1 tablespoon natural sugar dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm water

optional: 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt vegan butter.  Add paprika and salt, and stir constantly for a minute or two.  Add dissolved sugar and toast, stirring for another couple of minutes or just one minute if including nutritional yeast.  If incorporating the nutritional yeast, add and continue toasting and stirring for another minute or until pecans are lightly toasted.  Reduce heat if necessary to prevent overcooking pecans.


Quesadilla Filling:

2-15.5 ounce cans red beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup red onion cut into 1/4-inch dice (if you’re not a fan of the “bite” from raw onion, just soak the diced onion in unsweetened soymilk for 15-20 minutes, rinse and drain)

1 cup yellow or orange bell pepper, stemmed, cored, and seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 cup celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/4 cup vegan mayo

2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning or to taste

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or marjoram

Optional: pinch of garlic powder (you may want to add if your brand of cajun seasoning doesn’t included granulated garlic or garlic powder)

In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients.


To Make Quesadillas:

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons vegan butter, divided

4-8 inch whole wheat tortillas

Garnish: 4 sprigs fresh basil, marjoram, or oregano

In a large cast iron skillet, heat/melt 1 tablespoon each olive oil and vegan butter over medium-high.  Spoon 1/4 each of the filling over half of two of the tortillas.  Fold remaining halves over, and place both into the skillet.  Cook for a couple or until golden brown and toasted.  Flip and cook another couple of minutes on reverse.  Remove to serving plates and cover with foil to keep warm.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.  Garnish each with 1/4 of the Remoulade Sauce and 1/4 of the Praline Pecans.  Note:  I like to cut each quesadilla in half, overlap them slightly on the serving plates, garnish and serve.

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